Cloud has become a popular word recently. Applications for different purposes are being created on the basis of the software as a service (SaaS) or cloud computing. Business SaaS applications have their software utilities hosted on remote servers rather than on personal computers. The user accesses the utilities via a web browser. This makes it possible first of all to avoid multiple desktop applications disadvantages. As the web application is available from any computer and many of such solutions have collaboration tools, any member of your working team can access the project you’re working in at any time. It becomes easier to work together on a project. Cloud and collaboration are not just in the trend, they are probably going to become indispensable for successful business projects.
What benefits can a cloud business software give to your business?
Let’s take a look at the common business software features to try to answer this question. The key features that almost any business software provide are: a workflow tracker, workflow templates, collaboration tools, analytical and reporting tools. A business application should have a comfortable interface and provide easy integration with 3rd party applications, as well as quick data migration to enable the user switch between the application whenever it’s needed.
First tracking systems appeared in software development. They were called bug trackers as their main purpose was to ensure the process of finding and fixing bugs in the software. Trackers automated this process. According to the scheme of the workflow, the software was sent to QA and back to developers, at some stages other participants to the development could be included to the process. Later such systems were adopted by call centers, CRM and support, everywhere, where daily processes tended to repeat and their transparency and control were crucial for the success. An automated system made it possible to control the process, to make it more transparent and quick.
When trackers started to be adapted by different industries, they got a more general term of issue tracing systems or issue trackers. The most well-known cloud trackers are Redmine and Jira. But they were generally created for software development and, unfortunately, can be hardly used in any other activity field. Clarizen and Comindware solutions provide trackers that can be customized for any activity field. It’s crucial for the user to have the possibility to reprogram the processes in a tracker without any programming skills involved.
It’s easier to customize an issue tracker for your specific working process using professional templates. A well-set working process runs faster and more efficiently. Templates for working processes contain practice of other businesses. Sometimes they are made according to some industry standards, like it is the case of the COPC standard for call centers for example. Until recently such templates were written on paper or filled into the Excel files. A manager could study them carefully and then apply and this definitely takes time. However well you study the template, you may happen to fail to explain this order to your team members or have problems with controlling the process.
With issue tracking software it’s possible to make such templates run in the form of automated workflows. This way, process automation takes minimal time, it is transparent, and the team performance is easily controlled. Workflows and workflow templates are created and executed in a tracker. Serena software provides templates for Employee OnBoarding, Expense Reimbursement, Issue Defect Management, Customer Reference and a number of other typical working processes. The future is after applications that will provide industry-wide sets of templates.
There are two types of collaboration that we can talk about when speaking of business software. Either it can be collaboration over the same file or document within the document, when multiple users can bring changes in it, like it is the case with Zoho solutions like Zoho Writer for example. Or it can be different discussing tools, such as chat, messenger, feeds, discussing via email. The difference between such features included into a business solution and the same options in the form of Skype or ordinary email is simple: when the team members use the business application tools for communicating, each conversation is tied to the relevant task or project. Thus potentially the number of emails and meetings can be reduced, as the collaboration tools make it possible to keep all the discussions upon a subject in one place and thus easily find information and see what stage the task or project performance is.
Amongst collaborative tools it’s possible to mention Asana that was created specially for this purpose, but unlike other cloud business solutions, Asana doesn’t have a tracker: project can be discussed but the working process cannot be automated so that the participants to the process may get lost in the discussions.
Analytical and reporting tools
Issue tracking systems make it possible to control task and the project progress. Usually cloud business applications come with multiple dashboards and widgets that can reflect any aspect of the team activity. The deadlines can be met more surely and the planning is easier. A tracker automatically counts time spent, amount of performed work and thus makes it possible to calculate the resources and the results.
[note]Anastasia Chumakova: An online marketing manager and a blogger. She’s specialized in writing about issue tracking, task management and project management software. Her favorite PM method is agile and she prefers outcome-oriented approach. She thinks that the value of project management software is underestimated and puts efforts into making its use more popular.[/note]